25 February, 2012

Jack in Hell

Let’s check back in with our vicarious vicar, Father Jack. It looks like he’s back in the Hill Cantons. Yes, that’s certainly the odour of Marlankh, and we can see the familiar skyline of off-whitewashed buildings, domed towers, and squatting there in the middle of it all like a great stone toad is the big square Tomb of the City Gods.

Marlankh has been a bit of a puzzle for our foraying friar. Little more than a month ago, during that dark time he ‘remembers’ as ‘The Dry Days,’ Jack was quite shocked to discover he wasn’t in Wessex any longer. He had only recently awoken sober in the Blue Rabbit, walked outside, and uttered “oh hell, I’m still at that feckin’ abbey on the arse end of Cornwall,” when he was whisked away by the vagaries of interdimensional instability. Although he had already been to the Hill Cantons multiple times, this was the first time he realised it wasn’t south-western Britain. He quickly came to the only reasonable conclusion. He was in Hell.

The Dry Days are past now, of course, as fleeting wealth always seems to find a way back into Jack’s pockets, but their influence has had a lasting effect on the Father’s perception. He knows now that he isn’t merely waking from another delirium, but has rather staggered through a gap in the world he knows into Hades. And this Hades, unsurprisingly, is populated with people he knows! Here is The Clown, The Dandy, and Warlock Spiderman.  Not only are they in Hell, but worse, he suspects them all of being French. And here too is one of the natives of this City of Purgatory, the irrepressible Marzipan.

It doesn’t take many drinks in The Flaming Goat to understand that mischief is afoot. Marzipan has unwittingly found himself bound in matrimony to one of Marlankh’s other hellish denizens. Such unwelcome bonds are not easily broken in the Netherworld, so the logical course of action becomes immediately clear. Kidnap her and demand ransom from her wealthy father. Jack is sure it made sense at the time, and anyway, what of it? One path is as good as another when dealing with these Godless heathens of The Pit.

In hushed and soundly intoxicated tones, a plan begins to coalesce in the smoke filled air of a back corner. The plan grows like a stubborn, deep-rooted vine. The plan is detailed. The plan is complex. The plan is completely over Father Jack’s head.

Even in the Bowels of Hell convention returns, and Jack spends the next three days in accustomed fashion, alternately drinking and sleeping in a hearthside chair at The Flaming Goat. Are those his erstwhile comrades at a table nearby? Why yes, there’s Warlock Spiderman chatting up a woman! This must be the She-Devil of Marzipan. And her sisters! With an expectoration of “girls!,” Jack privately vows to pay more attention to the plan next time.

Hopefully the next plan hasn’t begun yet, because the next thing our vague vicar recalls is standing in front of an illusory merchant shop. Dandy Smallberries is doing his best to entice the She-Devil of Marzipan to come inside. Seeking an antidote for her reluctance, Jack offers a bit of the odd white powder he found in that subterranean laboratory in Outland. The land of imprisonment and broken dreams. Curious, the She-Devil samples a bit of the powder and is suitably enthralled. Entering the phantasmal doorway, her and her brutish guardsman are both put solidly into slumber by the arcane doings of Warlock Spiderman. A quick examination reveals demonic horns upon her retainer, just as Father Jack knew it would. Thankfully, the brutish devil is dispatched with haste.

updated map!
The insensate succubus is hurriedly placed in a bag, and Jack imbues a stone from the floor with the holy power of Silence. Giving the stone to The Clown so that the creature’s devilish howls might not disturb the peace if she were to wake, Jack accompanies the conspirators to a secluded building in the slums. Again a plan begins to take root. Father Jack volunteers eagerly to keep an eye on the abode of the captured creature’s father, concerned that some of the others might fall prey to the charms of the succubus’s sisters.

While trying his best to see into the sisters’ window, Jack witnesses the delivery of a note detailing a best reasonable course for the She-Devil’s father. A sum of twelve thousand coins of some kind is recalled in some relation to this. When next the man leaves his home, Jack, with his faithful torchbearer Girly and the Clown’s man Ool, decides it best to follow. The man, a local guildmaster, travels through Marlankh to a Gypsy Square, and from there mounts the stairs of an old tenement. Could this be a den of assassins? Anything is possible in this festering pit of Purgatory.

After a time, the guildmaster returns to his home, fuming with anger. Not long after, we see him again making his way through the city to the ramshackle tenement, and back up the stairs for another sheltered assignation. Ah yes, more capital was required before the unknown congregation would provide the service he was looking for. But what service? A rescue? A mystic insight? A night of knives? Whatever it might be, it’s clearly not a banking institution. That’s not just vodka Jack smells, it’s the pungent odour of trouble.

Wisely drinking a bit more to further confound his path, our furtive father makes another set of travels between Uptown Guildhouse and Gypsysquare Tenement. A stream of armed toughs and ruffians go to and fro from the upper floor of the rundown walkup. Assassins it is. Watching their backs, the trio heads for the Warlock’s newly purchased slum-hold where the She-Devil is bagged. Seeing that none of the thugs are watching the place, Father Jack enters and gives a quick sermon on the dangers of coveting, and the healthful benefits of avoiding wrath. Incidentally, that town about thirty miles north is rumoured to be nice this time of year.

Here is Father Jack now, resting by a campfire miles North of Marlankh, that city on the Edge of Perdition. Warlock Spiderman pines for his lost love, Marzipan’s succubus. Perhaps Jack will cheer him with a soothing homily. The poor man-thing has fallen for the creature. He laments that he might never get the chance to “fill her up with his spider babies.” Perhaps Jack won’t cheer him with a soothing homily.

With a quick prayer that he might again wake up “at the arse end of Cornwall,” he takes a final drink and goes to sleep.

The Clown – Taurus Hell’s Heart by Cole Long
The Dandy – Meriwether Chambliss by Jeremy Duncan
Warlock Spiderman – Philip the Bloody by Evan Elkins
Marzipan – Manzafrain the Mountebank by Robert Parker
All others by Chris Kutalik

24 February, 2012

Greyhawk Things

Some isolated little bits about my currently running version of Greyhawk.

  • OD&D with all supplements up through Eldritch Wizardry. Chainmail man-to-man combat with d20.
  • Uses the gazetteer from '80, boxed set from '81, Greyhawk Adventures book from '88, City of Greyhawk book from '89, Yggsburgh book from '05.
  • Set in the year 610, some 30 years after the heyday of such figures as Robilar, Tenser and Mordenkainen back in the early 570's.
  • None of that Greyhawk Wars stuff or the Rary traitor incidents ever happened.
  • There is a Zork sub-level in Castle Greyhawk.
  • No one has done any delving in the dungeons under Castle Greyhawk in over 20 years. It was considered mostly played-out.
  • A small adventuring group led by someone named Ironwolf recently plumbed parts of the dungeon, and rumours of returned wealth have re-surfaced.
  • A priest of Khorne has been seen about the city.
  • The city is now often referred to as Yggsburgh, after being styled thus by a number of foreigners. Old-timers still call it Greyhawk.
  • The Striped Mage is now occasionally seen in the company of a barbarian man, a heavily armoured woman, and a bow-slinging elf. They sometimes handle situations in the city which prove too much for the guardsmen.
  • The dungeon under Castle Greyhawk is based on 'The Mad Demigod's Castle.' C&C's Dark Château is nearby. For both the surroundings and the dungeon, I've made extensive use of online copies of notes taken by Gary and his old players. Thanks Grodog and Joe Bloch.
  • The Old Kingdom to the East is a mixture of Melnibonean Immryr and The Wizard of Id. Sort of.
  • Blackmoor in the North is the one from First Fantasy Campaign. The City of the Gods is all HR Giger.
  • Any techno elements hidden away around the map are definitely in the Giger mould, not Star Trekky.
  • If you scrape away the right façade, you will find a nice big dose of Yog-Sothothery.

21 February, 2012

Nasty Powers for Demons

Yay, a table! These are random powers for the Demon Class in Grot. The entries are a bit more general than they might be, because I want to leave plenty of room for the player to figure out exactly how the power manifests. For example, if the table says you can fly, you might decide you have bat wings, or raven wings, or personal telekinesis, or inflating gasbags. View the hidden? Maybe an eye opens on your palm or on your forehead.

Unless otherwise noted, powers last for 1 round per level (unless it's instant) and can be used once per day for each time the player rolls that power. Many of the powers might be similar to spells in the system of choice, in which case they basically work the same way. Unless otherwise noted, victims generally get a save vs. spells to halve or avoid the effects.

If it's a movement power of some kind (or something like invisibility,) how much can you carry with you? Easy! Take your Wisdom score and plug it into the Strength table of your rules set, then use the resulting encumbrance or load amount.

What if you roll a damaging power a 2nd time? Do you get it once more per day? Does it do another d6 of damage, but still just once a day? You pick. Each time you roll it, either increase usage or damage.

  1. You can fly at twice normal movement. See above.
  2. Darkness, 15 foot radius.
  3. Damaging touch, 1d6 damage to anything touched or held. Do they burn? Do they melt? Rot? Something else?
  4. Mind-read. They only get a save if they have mind powers.
  5. Spit, project, or breath damaging substance up to 20 feet. 1d6 damage. Or maybe it's a tentacle that shoots out of your nose. It's up to you.
  6. Enlarge
  7. Shrink
  8. Command
  9. Charm Person. Do you say a word, do they wear your mark, does something get implanted?
  10. Turn invisible
  11. Become ethereal
  12. Teleport up to a distance of 50 feet per level.
  13. Sense magic. This includes spellcasters.
  14. Summon a weird random creature, 1hd per level.
  15. Heat metal. This version is simpler. It lasts one round per level, and each round it does 1d6 damage. It lights flammable touching objects aflame pretty much right off. Make it a cold version if you like.
  16. Brain blast! 1d6 damage per level. Only those with mental powers get a save.
  17. Improve Armour Class by 1 point per level, for one round per level.
  18. Telekinesis, 10 pounds per level. The objects have a movement rate of a typical person. Range is 20 feet per level.
  19. View the Hidden. Sees invisible, concealed, traps, etc. Doesn't see ethereal, etc.
  20. Minor Curse. -1 to all their rolls.
  21. Cause Fear in one individual.
  22. Change shape. Stay the same size.
  23. Immune to fire
  24. Immune to cold
  25. Immune to acid
  26. Immune to electricity
  27. Resist magic, 5% per level
  28. Send thoughts
  29. Make an illusion. Up to a 10 foot cube per level.
  30. Cause disease. The sickness, though not deadly, is debilitating, runs a course of 1 week, and is contagious.
  31. Heal yourself for 1d6 points.
  32. Increase any ability score by 1.
  33. Forgetting touch causing cinematic amnesia.
  34. Voice swap
  35. Animate one corpse
  36. Curse object. Armour is 1 point worse, weapons are -1 to hit and damage, things break more easily.
  37. Grow 1 extra limb. Is it a tentacle?
  38. Stoner touch. Victim turned to stone for 1 round per level.
  39. Paralysis touch. Victim goes limp and falls to the ground. Can't move for 1 round per level.
  40. Cause insanity in one creature. Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Paranoia? It's up to the DM.
  41. Mutation touch! Roll on a mutation table!
  42. Animate object. Includes plants. Thing can be up to 5 pounds per level.
  43. Wasting touch. Reduces any one ability score by 2.
  44. Nasty Wildlife. Something (including plants) within 30 feet gets nasty and attacks. Up to 2hd worth of creatures per level. They will grow claws, or fangs, or something nasty, but can't grow legs or wings if they don't have them. Tiny things will attack in 2hd bunches.
  45. Blindness. One person looking at you is blinded.
  46. Steal any one body part. It appears somewhere on you. No inherent damage. Hand? Eye? Tongue? If you hurt it while it's on you, you get hurt too!
  47. Ungodly odour. Everyone within 5 feet saves or pukes.
  48. Alacrity. Movement and number of actions doubled. Effective Dexterity increased by 1. Triple if rolled again. Quadrupled if rolled a 4th time, etc.
  49. Burst into flames. Anyone in physical contact takes 1d6 damage per level each round they're in contact. It also lights your own stuff on fire.
  50. Imbue with magic. Any one item gains minor eldritch qualities.
  51. Gate closing. Keeps a door shut for 1 round per level. 5% chance per level of closing any interdimensional portal.
  52. Temporal touch. Victim touched is sent forward in time 1 minute per level.
  53. Gravitic anomaly. Victim's mass is partially shunted to another dimension, or added to from another dimension. Weight is increased or reduced by 10% per level, though size remains constant.
  54. Theft. Any one item, weighing no more than 1 pound per level, is transferred to your possession. After one round per level it (or its pieces) goes back.
  55. Futility. One individual within 30 feet is made unable to affect the world around them. Do they turn into a shadow? Become ghostly? Incorporeal and wispy? Turn into a cloud of gnats? Up to you. They can't move about either, and no one can have any effect on them.
  56. Soulcrusher. You possess an item dedicated to holding imprisoned souls. The victim loses 1 point of Charisma per level, with concomitant loss of ability to maintain control of hirelings and henchmen, and also are unaffected by beneficial clerical or druidic magic. If you destroy the item while it holds a captured soul, the victim takes 1d6 per level in damage, but you must then replace the item at a minimum cost of 100gp.
  57. Soul gem. You can store your soul or the soul of a willing individual for 1 hour per level. The individual becomes immune to sleep, charm and mind-reading. However, they lose 2 points of Charisma and are unaffected by beneficial clerical or druidic magic.
I'll add a few more. If you need more ideas, here is an awesome post by Zak with different goals but similar spirit. And here is a neat generator on Abulafia to help if you get stuck with how you look.

20 February, 2012

Classes in Grot

At first I said there would be no classes native to Grot, and all players would hail from Beyond. Well, I changed my mind. Here are two character class ideas for Grot. I may think of more, but probably not.

Zhuvimbie - You are a bit more than dead. You are un-dead. You might have been a human or something else, but now you're dead. Un-dead. You remember it all, too. Cleric is not an option. Wizard, fighter, thief. You might have been a cleric before, but now you're dead. Un-dead. You don't need to breath or eat, yet you sometimes crave brains, possibly for special reasons. You can be unnervingly frightened by clerics, and may be pained by holy water. Other details, as appropriate.

Minor Demon - Yep, a demon. You might also be a daemon, but probably not a devil. Not so much Bible Demon as Realm of Chaos Demon. Depending on where you visit, certain sorcerers in-the-know may be able to contain your movements within pentacles. Similarly, clerics and holy water may be an annoyance. On the plus side, you get 2 Neat Things at first level. Either a Nasty Power or a Horrific Mutation. One of each or two of a kind, your choice. Every level you get 1 more Neat Thing, and you get to pick which table you roll on. Nasty Power or Horrific Mutation.

Interesting Points

Today I'd like to talk a bit about an issue that's been going around the OSR. Ha! Just kidding! Here's a bullet list of hopefully interesting things about the (since 1989!) setting in which lies the ruined Morvalian edifice, Castle Nicodemus.

  • The Ancient Morvalians are mostly known to academics, mages and other wackos. A few people have heard of The Old Wizard Kings, but most common folk in Anglia just know about Some Old Ruins Nearby.
  • Boorman's Excalibur, Bakshi's Wizards and plenty of Dragonslayer.
  • Men (as in humanity) began settling Anglia in earnest a little over two centuries ago. A lot of nasty orc and goblin blood was spilled in the process.
  • Your typical clergy at churches and cathedrals don't cast spells.
  • The King of Anglia, who rules from his seat in Freeport on the southern coast, technically owes fealty to The Grand Theodic Emperor across the ocean to the East.
  • Anglia is in the southern hemisphere of its planet.
  • Trolls are big, fat, and turn to stone in the sunlight.
  • The most commonly practised religion in Anglia is based on Scandinavian paganism.
  • Elves and dwarves are only rarely seen abroad. They stuck to their own small territories before humanity arrived, and they mostly still do. They don't mind that humans killed off or chased away a ton of orcs, but it didn't really do them much good either.
  • Magic is not all The Devil's Work, but it's unusual and often viewed with surprise and suspicion.
  • Castles were built by the Anglish to command the borders. Towns have sprung up around most of them.
  • Humans in The Empire of The East, The Grand Theodic Empire, have a much longer and richer history of dealings with elves. Legends say that elves were already there when humanity arrived. Elven influence is responsible for a lot of advances in metalworking. In recent centuries many elves in The East have distanced themselves from humanity.
  • The overwhelming majority of People In Charge have no class or level to speak of.
  • Currently extant humans in this world are here due mainly to dimensional fissures encountered by the Germanic Tribes during the 'migration period.' A handful of Celtic peoples preceded them, but were far less in number, most of them considering the dimensional weak spots off-limits for one reason or another. This isn't general knowledge, of course, but things hint at it.
  • Priests of chaos and anarchy plot against the current establishment.
  • Armies of orcs are invading from the north, occupying villages and imprisoning people. Their ultimate goal is unclear.
  • Hobgoblins are nasty little townies, like a combination of brownies and goblins.
  • There is a lot of Old Forest in Anglia which has yet to be intruded upon by humans. Dark & Mysterious.

13 February, 2012

Wizard Cantrips

Magic-Users in my campaigns are able to put their sorcerous learning to work at any time by using cantrips. These aren't the cantrips detailed in any published sourcebook, and they aren't written down in the wizard's spell books either. They are extemporised instances of magic. The magic-user uses his creativity and knowledge, his years of learning, his acquired talent for manipulating the fabric of reality, and he makes magic. Very minor magic.

If using a cantrip on a creature, or something held or worn by the creature, a saving throw vs. spells is allowed the potential victim to nullify the effect. The maximum mass of an affected item is one pound. The maximum area of effect is roughly a ten foot cube (not an exact or perfect cube, of course.)

Thus, a mage makes a hand motion, utters some arcane syllables, and the log in the hearth lights. He says a few more strange words, and his breakfast dishes are clean. It's not very bright, so to look through his pantry he works his fingers and says a word, and a small bright point of light appears. It lights up an area of about 10 feet. A fly is buzzing around, distracting him, so he mutters, points a finger, and it flashes out with a pop. Bah, his little light went out when he stopped thinking about it. Through the window, he sees the bill collector. He utters an odd word, works his hands, and (with a failed save) sets a small spot on his shirt on fire.

They can't directly cause even 1 point of damage, but of course a fly or a bee doesn't have even 1 hit point. It's imagination time!

12 February, 2012

Life on Grot

How does the ecology of Grot function? Why does the weather do what it does? Why does the violet-white-tinged sun of Grot rise red and set blue? One may as well ask why Azathoth enjoys the piping of a trillion frantic flutes, or what’s inside a chicken mcnugget.

There are many ruins across the face of Grot, but there remain no living cities. The bastions of civilisation, if one is pressed to call them that, are generally found in ancient isolated castles. These fortresses look out onto a countryside teeming with death, disorder and degenerate savagery. They bear ancient names like Castle Xoon, The Fortress of Necron, and The Morgus. But the prospective visitor must be wary, for these fortifications can often prove as treacherous as the wilderness.

The wilderness contains few of what most would think of as species. The preponderance of Grot’s creatures are too subject to malformation and grotesquerie to conform to such mundane classification. Of those few that do, one type of note are the shockingly prolific Vogg, or Pig-Beasts. These bipedal abominations, clammy in their rubbery and unwholesomely pallid flesh, either creep in singular stealth or pour forth in maggot-like masses in many places across Grot.

The Vogg, their faces only suggesting the porcine, have glistening whitish translucent flesh, like some thing vomited forth from the blackest sun-forgotten pits, and their entrails twist and writhe visibly under the surface, like unfried spring rolls full of squirming black-eyed grubs.

11 February, 2012

World of Grot

The first bubbling putrescence of a new reality has leached up from the foetid and fecund soil of my imagination. It began when I realised how strongly and continuously I was being drawn toward a seemingly mundane and telluric pencil work by the esteemed John Blanche. Irresistibly, I viewed it again and again. I sought out variant forms, almost as though habituated to its prospect as to an alchemical narcotic. Finally, I knew no other course which would alleviate my predilection. In the position of continuing to spool forth my beloved Morvalo-Anglian milieu, as well as maintaining a substantive efflusion of entries on this periodical record, I must throw aside all proper caution and begin the setting down of this terrible vision with which I had so lately been cursed.

[I'm already working on a ton of stuff, so, of course, start another new setting!]

The basis of the entire setting is this one picture. It's an awesome John Blanche. Take it as a common and average vista in this world. I'll be calling this setting 'Grot.' It is quite grotty. A few things I know about it so far include the utter absence of halflings, hobbits, elves, and dwarves. Also, no orcs, not normal ones at least. Also, no humans. In fact, any player characters in the setting will have arrived there from somewhere else. This will put quite a damper on the usual 'stop by the merchant and stock up' sort of activity, but the main source of influx will be from a door within Castle Nicodemus.